CPU, Motherboard, And Cooler
CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition OEM
Squeezing an enthusiast-class build into our $1,000 target is a difficult task, especially when our goal is to put the lion’s share of cash into the graphics subsystem. We need to find a CPU with a sub-$100 price tag, but with the potential to run with the big boys. This price range is solid AMD territory and we considered triple- and quad-core Athlon II models, but we chose the Phenom II X3 720.
The Phenom II X3 720 has a few high-end features going for it, including an unlocked CPU multiplier and 6MB of L3 cache. But despite these features, the OEM model sports a very reasonable $90 price tag. On top of this, there’s a good chance we’ll be able to unlock the processor’s dormant CPU core and transform the X3 720 into a full-fledged quad-core Phenom II X4.
Motherboard: MSI 790X-G45
Our lofty CrossFire graphics goal requires dual x8 PCI Express (PCIe) slots at the very least, and our lower budget forces us to look hard at AMD’s 790X and 790GX chipsets. In the end, we selected MSI’s 790X entry because of its low $100 price tag and good overclocking reputation.
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3
Once again, our low budget becomes the deciding factor in our hardware choice, and with an OEM CPU, we don’t have the option to use a stock cooler. Fortunately, Cooler Master’s Hyper TX3 has a measly $20 impact on our available funds, yet does a much better job than any bundled cooler would. The Hyper TX3 has served us well in other low-budget applications, and its Socket AM3/LGA 1156 flexibility comes in handy.